I was in New York on a business trip that was ending very badly. In a club with a compatriot-in-misery, during a casual in-a-bar-with-strangers conversation, we found out that Gerald Levert was dead. Misery is a selfish beast and we’d been captivated by the fantastical nature of our sour turn that not a shred of other-people-drama had permission to penetrate our shell-shocked world. Upon hearing the news, we were appropriately set aback, mouth formed in the perfect caricature of screaming non-believers: “What did you say!?!” “What? Really?” “How?” When?” Why?” HOW?!”.

Gerald’s death was just a few lines on most newscasts. Like so many artists whose breadth of talent gets suffocated into the limiting categories of “R&B” or “urban contemporary”, Gerald’s departure couldn’t be felt as deeply outside of our community. His importance could not be understood by those who viewed R&B as a sidebar to “popular” music, and thus continued to relegated its’ stars to “off-Broadway” triumphs.  Yet, for us, Gerald heralded-ironically- from Rhythm & Blues Royalty. As the son of Eddie LeVert of the O’Jays, Gerald exemplified everything we want in a child following a parents well-blazed path: as an honorific and with respect to the elder while delivering originality and modernity to craft a sound independent of the prototype.

Gerald was more than a voice. Gerald LeVert is credited as an arranger, producer, composer as well keyboardist and drummer for artists with a range from  Anita Baker to the Oak Ridge Boys, and lots of familiars in between: Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills, Keith Sweat, Silk, En Vogue, New Edition……

When I heard “DJ Don’t”-released after his death,I felt his loss deep in the grooves of that classic steppers cut. It’s that moment when we realize that there will be no more “new”, and we try not to collapse under the weight of death’s obscene unfairness! WHY?!  However, there will never be a comforting answer so we retrieve what was great and glorious…what remains from the ashes..

Gerald LeVert..a limited list of wonder from an artist worth so much more:

Casanova/Just Coolin’/That’s What Love Is/Private Line/DJ Don’t/Didn’t We/Let’s Get Romantic/Rain/Pop, Pop, Pop Goes My Mind/Thinkin’ Bout It/It Was What It Was/Let the Juices Flow/Just a Little Something/Baby U Are/Dream With No Love

Spotlight- Gerald Levert